Key points from Rishi Sunak’s speech to Tory conference

By Isaac M October 4, 2023

Rishi Sunak used his first Tory conference speech as party leader to set out his vision for the country, pitching himself as a radical reformer ahead of the next general election.

Here are the key points from the address in Manchester.

– Rishi Sunak confirmed he is cancelling the northern leg of HS2, claiming the “facts have changed” and calling it the “ultimate example of the old consensus”. The Prime Minister said he would spend “every single penny” of the £36 billion saved from scrapping the northern leg of HS2 on new transport projects in the North and Midlands.

– The Prime Minister said that HS2 will still run to Euston in central London, but said that the current management would “no longer be responsible” for the site.

– He also proposed raising the smoking age by one year, every year, meaning a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette. He said that there would be a Commons vote on the change in the law in the future, but said it would be a free vote for MPs.

– The Prime Minister promised to bring forward measures to restrict the availability of vapes to children.

– Rishi Sunak said that he would introduce a major reform of secondary school qualifications, bringing together A-levels and T-levels to create a new “Advanced British Standard” which will see students covering more subjects.

– To applause, he told the audience: “A man is a man, a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.”

– In a pre-election pitch to voters, he said that he was the leader with a long-term vision who could “change our country for the better”.

– He said he had taken a more “pragmatic” and “proportionate” approach to reaching net zero, defending his recent changes and insisted the UK “will still get to net zero by 2050”.

– Rishi Sunak emphasised the UK’s support for Ukraine in the conflict against Russia. “If we give President Zelensky the tools, Ukraine will finish the job,” he told members to applause.

– He launched repeated attacks on Labour and leader Sir Keir Starmer, referencing, too, former leader Jeremy Corbyn. He also mocked former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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